Don’t Fence Me In

Today is the birthday of famous movie cowboy Roy Rogers, who we think of as a fixture of the wide open western expanse even though he actually entered the world at Cincinnati, Ohio.

Though it’s hard to imagine two forms of entertainment that are more out of fashion today than musicals and westerns, Rogers excelled at both. His work with the ensemble Sons of the Pioneers is a source of fond musical memories for me, although I don’t have many warm feelings towards hay, saddles, guns or cactus.

Born Leonard Slye, Rogers was a Hollywood creation, although he did seem to play well with horses. In this video clip, Trigger steals the show and Roy lets him, which strikes me as both kind-hearted and practical.

Though I didn’t think this was allowed, you can watch full Roy Rogers movies on Youtube, where there’s something for everyone. In “Sunset in the West”, Roy and Trigger deal with a hijacked train that’s full of guns, which ought to have equal appeal to those rail-loving new urbanists and the N.R.A., though for different reasons.

There aren’t many celebrities today with the kind of broad appeal that can span the political, musical, sartorial and behavioral boundaries we draw around ourselves. Roy Rogers had that quality, though I’m sure his solid relationship with Trigger helped.

Who is the Roy Rogers of today?

57 thoughts on “Don’t Fence Me In”

  1. Thanks, Dale. Did not know about the Sons of the Pioneers connection.

    But how did you manage to get through that whole post without mentioning the other Dale, Dale Evans?

    Does anyone else remember the toys that were plastic horses and riders with plastic clothing and tack accessories? I did not have any of that but must have had a friend who did because I remember being fascinated with how detailed these were.

    I confess that I am utterly stumped to think of anyone with universal appeal this morning. Last night was rough, even though I am proud to be a Minnesotan this morning.


    1. North Dakotans, while a pretty conservative bunch, defeated some really bad ballot initiatives yesterday, which is both gratifying and just a little surprising.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Dale wrote a memoir of Roy and their family – I read it a couple of years back. Granted she might not have been the most objective of authors but it did seem as if Roy was a very nice guy in real life as well. I know that some folks these days frown about the fact that they adopted kids from other cultures and “assimilated” them, but I think it’s unfair to apply today’s cultural bias to that time frame. They were good people, I think.

      And because I miss this every morning……


      1. It is still there every Monday morning at 7. Some of the sheen has worn off, of course, as Mike Pengra’s pre-recorded introduction is so obviously pre-recorded. But it still brings back memories.


  2. Good morning. I was a big fan of all the cowboy stars when I was a young kid. Roy Rodgers was one of my favorites. However I preferred Gene Audrey and some of he others who I thought were more colorful. Roy had a very “clean cut” look that seemed a little fake to me.

    It is hard to come up with someone like Roy Rodgers in the more complex world of today. How about Steve Martin? He doesn’t have exactly the same appeal as Roy had. He does have the kind of personally that most people can’t help liking and his appeal extends into many different areas.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Many of the ranchers and rodeo cowboys out here are of Norwegian and Czech descent, which I find comical, for some reason. We have lots of Roy Rogers out here, as well as cowgirls who are much tougher cookies than Dale (Mrs. Roy, not our fearless leader, although I don’t know how proficient a barrel racer and pole bender he is).


  4. we have a local rancher/cowboy poet named Bill Lowman who lives in Sentinel Butte, just down the road a few miles. He seems to turn up everywhere, declaiming his poetry and stories whenever he finds himself in any sort of group. I bet he even recites poetry in line in Walmart.


    1. Hmmm. Declaiming one’s poetry to randomly assembled groups is not a strategy destined to make friends and influence people. Whenever rhymes are introduced into a neutral environment, decent folks should always have an open avenue of escape. Maybe he needs his own blog?

      Liked by 3 people

      1. When I did teacher-training, one of my favorite groups was in a beautifully designed new K-12 building on the prairie in the very center of Kansas. The group was up in years on the whole and I expected stodgy, but they were not. There were three male social studies teachers who were in their mid-fifties who on a lark attended a workshop for Soc. teachers in Boston. They had their eyes completely opened. They came back with a zest to redesign how they taught social studies. They did some wonderful stuff. Many things were fun and interesting and successful about this group.
        An English teacher was a cowboy singer/poet. There is a national competition for cowboy poetry. He had placed near the top a few times. His stuff was pure hokum and he sang like Andy Devine, both of which were part of his studied schtick. He loved playing that role. He said that many at the competition took themselves and their bad poetry very seriously. This guy was a sort of, ah, what’s his name: singer who works for the state parks, was often on PHC. Duh, and I’ve met him twice. Charlie McGuire? This guy spent his summer traveling the west and performing, but I don’t think he sang at Walmart. Maybe. He loved life.


        1. When was this workshop in Boston?

          When I was in high school in the mid-70’s, almost all the best teachers were in the social studies area. Heikkila (sp?), Bowman, Ronning, all fairly young guys who seemed to make learning fun. Maybe they all went to the same workshop.

          The other best teachers were my field biology teacher and Mrs. Bleskachek (sp? again), who taught American Lit. Bless them all.

          Yes. I’m sure Charlie Maguire is right.


  5. the only one I know who can play that sort of bare-faced affable innocence is, of course, Dale Connelly.

    We are too far from the singularity of the post-war era. America is too multicultural, too jaded, too world-weary, too avaricious for anyone to come close to filling that role.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I did not come to Roy Rogers and Gene Audrey and their casts of players until I was, as the English say, out of short pants. They were on TV, which we got when I was in late fifth grade.By then I was fully aware that ranches and horses include manure, that cowboys never did say “shucks,” and “gosh darn,” that horses bite and kick at will, and mostly, that even a very well-trained horse can only run at a full gallop for two miles at best. I wanted to scream at them,”Take better care of your horses and watch out for the front and rear ends of the damn things.”
    But I did like the cast of character actors that came with such stars: Par Butrum, Gabby Hayes, Andy Devine. I was more drawn to the Jeep NellyBelly than to a horse.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Actually, these guys were not heroes. Roy Rogers and Tom Mix and Gene Autrey and all the others were just a social type that was associated with heroic activity. None had interesting personal qualities that earned them respect, and what sort of following they had was mostly an audience of gum cracking kids (like me) who cheered during gunfights and booed when the hero paused in his shooting to kiss his sweetie (the woman, not the horse).

    We live in a far more cynical age, and that is probably just as well. I don’t know of a single group or class that is revered today the way “cowboys” were once adored by kids. And we don’t have many individual heroes, for we have learned how complex and fallible humans are. Even sports heroes have fallen on hard times. The two great sports heroes of the local scene have been Kirby Puckett and Adrian Peterson. You wouldn’t get much today for the jersey of either.

    But today we don’t even deify cowboys as a class, just as we have reduced our adoration of pioneers. As a kid I played “cowboys and Indians,” meaning that we would have mock fights in which the cowboys were the good guys and the Indians the bad guys. Once I learned to see the world through the eyes of Native Americans I could no longer watch the kind of movie I was raised on.

    Is it cynical to believe that most heroes have flaws and most social groups only look heroic to those who have blinkers on? I don’t think so. At the moment the only heroes I have are good politicians (something this blog doesn’t usually believe exist) and long-suffering poor women trying to raise families in this ugly economy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Our culture has debased the word HERO.I did a hero unit in grade 7 back in the late 60’s. Student groups would nominate and run a hero and heroine to be elected by the whole class. It was fun. Even then kids wanted heroes to be celebrities and sports figures. But it led to a great set of lessons on the meaning of her.

      In classic theater a hero had to be noble (meaning of the aristocracy), had to be in some form above the common lot, usually related to the gods in some manner, do some great deed usually include sacrifice for the good of the community, and had to possess a key flaw which led to the hero’s downfall, usually death.

      Death of a Salesman is an interesting play because it is very much a Greek tragedy, except Willy is the heart and soul of the common man and nothing he does is of significance to anyone, including his sons. I think that play is brilliant in itself and for how it plays with that definition of great tragedy.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. On hackers . . . NBC is reporting today on Cameron Lacroix, a hacker convicted for (among many things) distributing Paris Hilton’s intimate selfies. I’ve always wondered about the motivations of hackers. This guy was a drug addict from a terrible home, a dweeb who was a poorly socialized misfit who needed hacking to give him a sense of power.


  8. A related question: the LGMS used to play a song by Riders in the Sky at 6 a.m. Did they play it every day or just Fridays? What was the name of the song?


    1. Yes, welcome. Come back often.
      Duh. I tend to ignore the song posts. Playing them can create a problem in the morning. Thanks. That is it. Every morning, she says. Think it was. And I heard it about 1/2 the shows, too.


      1. WP is nasty to me lately. Somehow in this post it went back and picked up that first line, which I had posted a long time ago.
        I wanted to reference the song in something that i am writing.


  9. OT: If yer looking for any bright spot in the election results besides Al Franken and our governor, my sister emailed me about these two in the Berkeley, CA area:

    “soda tax in Berkeley — while I don’t really support sin taxes that disproportionately affect the poor, somebody needed to not allow the American Beverage Corporation to buy an election — SF voted over 50% for their soda tax, but their rules require a 2/3 majority vote — vote in Berkeley was 75%.

    Richmond City Council — Chevron spent over $3 million trying to elect their candidates and buy this town through hate/attack ads that appeared in our mailboxes so often that it created a backlash and residents didn’t vote for ANY of Chevron’s candidates and instead voted for a very progressive slate “

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Last night on Tavis Smily and a reporter made the comment that Theo White said that he only knew three candidates who did not commit adultery on the campaign trail.


    2. Actually, BiR, the election was pretty good in Oregon. The Koch brothers dropped a fortune to unseat a Democratic governor and Jeff Merkley, the Democratic senator. The Kochs got nothing in spite of spending millions on two disgustingly negative campaigns.

      Interestingly, all the interest was on some referendums. The one legalizing pot was oddly uncontroversial. The one requiring GMO foods to be labeled as such was hugely controversial and the voting was so close they still have not called it.


        1. BiR: they just announced that it failed. I honestly don’t know which way to vote on that issue. It seems reasonable to let folks know what they are buying, but the whole GMO issue is polluted with ignorance and bad science.

          Liked by 2 people

    3. Our congressman Tim Waltz, a dem in a very conservative area won by 10% or so. His opponent used to write a blog in which he made racist and other bigoted statements, which he said were meant as satire. It was good to see him rejected. His last ads were so conservative, not so hateful as such, but just elect men and I will shut down everything. And done in such a shoddy manner they must have been home videos.
      Tim Waltz might come as close to squeaky clean as Dale.


    1. I love that you were inspired to do this work Clyde it is wonderful and the three should be framed in a trip tic and kept together as a collection for all time. Wonderful work.
      I had a busy day yesterday and missed Roy Rogers day.roy was a special hero for me. I loved his show with pat and Nellie bell, I was in an organization in hippy days call kink of the cowboys and when it dispersed I was the king so I am still it. Switch the first two vowels in your first and last name and if it sounds cowboy , you’re it. Nobody ever sounded more cowboy than tom jines.
      Tom hanks and brad Pitt are today’s two Roy Rogers candidates dale and the wives of those two have similar perceptions too. Angelina is kind of an action heartthrob toms wife is good at her stuff and remembered for big fat Greek wedding . Singing would lead to that other Mouseketeer with the hat. What’s his name. Big singer with new cd this year?
      He danced onsaturday nite live with jimmy.


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